1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

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COPO (Central Office Production Order) – arguably some of the most revered letters for aficionados of the muscle car. Without question, COPO was responsible for some of the most remarkable and fastest cars of the late-1960s and early 1970s muscle car era. Thanks to General Motors’ many internal edicts to limit performance, COPO was a way of circumventing the corporate red tape and building cars that the public wanted, but GM didn’t allow dealers and the public to order. F-bodies (Camaros and Firebirds) and A-bodies (Chevelles, GTOs, 4-4-2s and Gran Sports) were limited by corporate rule to engines no larger than 400 cubic inches. With Ford building Cobra Jet 428 Mustangs and Cougars and Chrysler producing 440 and 426 Hemi ’Cudas and Challengers, GM was forced to react.

When the Camaro was introduced in 1967 as a competitor to Ford’s popular Mustang, the biggest motor available was the L78 375-hp/396-cid “big-block,” even though Chevrolet offered its 427-cid variant in the Corvette and Impala SS. The 427 was only 30 or so cubic inches of displacement larger, and its external dimensions were identical to the 396. So what was the big deal? In Chevy’s case it was a matter of power-to-weight ratio. It was an unspoken rule – the Corvette had to be the most powerful, and thus the fastest, of all Chevrolets. You couldn’t have the less-expensive Camaro out-performing its costlier and more sophisticated brethren. To some, this prompted the question, “Why not a 427 Camaro?”

A Central Office Production Order was really nothing new at GM; it was Chevrolet’s way of filling unusual orders through its Fleet and Special Order Department. Quite simply, if you wanted to order municipal vehicles or 100 taxis in a special color, you did it through the local dealer via a COPO form. COPO rules were simple: you couldn’t order just one car (ten was the minimum order), the parts had to be readily available, and the cars and parts had to be compatible (i.e. you couldn’t put a 427-cid V-8 in a six-cylinder Nova). Enterprising dealers (and Chevrolet executives) came to realize that they could get factory hot rods by ordering specially-equipped cars through the COPO program. COPOs did not require the approval of upper-level GM management.

The process was really quite simple. By specifying COPO Code 9561 (9562 for a Chevelle), dealers could order an L72-equipped 427 Camaro. However, COPO Code 9560 belonged to some really exotic hardware. It provided dealers with a race-ready performance car equipped with the all-aluminum ZL-1 427 conservatively rated at 430 hp.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in November of 2010 at the Robson Estate, Gainesville, Georgia.

430 hp, ZL-1 all-aluminum 427 cid OHV “cowl induction” V-8 engine, M-214-speed manual transmission with Hurst shift linkage, power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes, heavy-duty front and leaf-spring rear suspension with live axle. Wheelbase: 108.1"

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Aaron Summerfield

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